Koreans plead for hostages’ release

Freed South Korean women recount their ordeal in exclusive interview with Al Jazeera.

Freed South Koreans
Kim Jee-na, left, and Kim Kyung-ja said they werenot treated badly by the Taliban
In video

Al Jazeera’s exclusive report

Lee Jee-young, one of the hostages and who had also been working as a translator for the group, gave up her place as one of the hostages to be freed.

“We were very worried when we heard that Jee-yong volunteered to be left behind,” said Kim Jee-na.
“But the Taliban allowed Jee-yong to write a letter to her family which consoled her and gave her some hope that she would come home soon.”
Painful decision
The freed women said they had not been treated badly by the Taliban while in captivity and “were given basic things such as food, medication and some blankets”.

Kim Jee-na asked the Taliban to release the
remaining hostages “as soon as possible”

But they also said it was painfully difficult to leave their friends in captivity.

“Rather than being happy, my heart was breaking,” Kim Kyung-ja said, holding back tears.
“I was thinking of the remaining 19 hostages.”
The women were part of a group of 23 South Korean aid workers who were taken hostage by Taliban fighters in July as their tour bus travelled along the Kabul-Kandahar highway in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province.
The group, all members of a Christian church in Seoul, had travelled to Afghanistan to provide aid work.

Kim Kyung-ja said that her “heart was
breaking” for the other hostages

“We were looking after the patients and children playing soccer games at the hospital located in Mazari Sharif,” the women said.

“We were planning to continue our work at the hospital and kindergarten after moving to Kandahar.”
In exchange for the hostages, the Taliban demanded the withdrawal of South Korean troops from the country and the release of prisoners held by the Afghan authorities.
But negotiations reached a deadlock on several occasions and a number of deadlines set by the Taliban passed without those demands being met.
Hostages killed

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The Taliban has already killed two of the hostages.

Bae Hyung-kyu, the group’s leader, was killed and his bullet-riddled body was left close to the road where the group was kidnapped.
Qari Mohammad Yousuf, a Taliban spokesman, said at the time that Bae had been killed “because the government did not listen to our demands”.
Later, after another deadline passed, the Taliban killed Shim Seong-min, another male hostage.
The Taliban continues to demand that the Afghan authorities release prisoners in exchange for the remaining hostages, demands that the Afghan authorities have refused.
Source: Al Jazeera